We attended NEAF 2016 in April. We definitely know how late this blog post is - it's been over 6 months since our trip to the States. It's just that we never got around to writing about it. But it's time we sat down for a bit and told you our story. It's a pretty interesting one. We're also posting this to give our readers a good idea of what the biggest astronomy show in the US is like and whether it's worth going (it is!).
To make things more digestible, I'll be writing this from my point of view. (Hey, I'm Alice! I'm the marketing coordinator at Astro Devices, and this was quite the experience for me.) For Serge's account (which will probably differ to mine in terms of how much I annoyed him that week), try emailing or calling.
The decision to attend NEAF was made and we scrambled to figure out exactly what to do and then how to do it. We bought our plane tickets and we tried to find out as much as we can about NEAF so we could plan accordingly. We emailed a few other people to see if they were attending and asked for some tips from previous attendees. Overall, we were pretty excited, but it hadn't quite hit us that we were doing something so big. (And it was far enough away that we didn't worry about planning anything yet. So we were quite chill about it all!)
Yep - this is when we really started getting our stuff together. January had been spent doing some more research and bouncing ideas off of each other. We spent February and March fleshing out those ideas and making sure we knew exactly what we'd be doing. During this time, we were also redesigning our website to be mobile-responsive, so both Serge and I were quite busy.
Our flight was at 9.50am. A major traffic jam made us over an hour late to check-in and we almost missed our flight, causing me to go into panic mode. I'm the type of person who always arrives early, and prefers to spend an extra hour at the airport rather than risk being late. We made it only because the flight was delayed. Our connecting flight was also delayed, but our first flight was so late that we had to run to make it. And here I'd thought we'd have a relaxing flight to the States...
We arrived at JFK airport late on the 7th of April and stayed at Serge's university mate's house. Warning: New York is COLD in April. I was not happy to find this out. We actually stayed near Sleepy Hollow, a beautiful historic town in New York state. The trees on the main street were covered in fairy lights and there were lots of churches. I really loved it and was sad I didn't get to sight-see the town since the weekend was busy and I rushed off to North Carolina for the rest of the week.
The view out of my bedroom window - not a bad sight to wake up to.
This is the day when the vendors set-up their booths and mingle before the big weekend. There's usually not a lot of time for talking until towards the end of the day, considering that everyone is busy setting up. We actually saw a few no-shows across from us, and the booth next to us was empty until Day 1.
On site, we met with our US dealers who would be our neighbours for the weekend. This was actually our first time meeting them - we'd talked over the phone and email but we're usually a whole ocean away - until now. They were a great help and had lots of tips on how to survive NEAF and make the best of the show. Over the weekend, we actually hopped between booths a lot during the quiet periods. We also met up with Teeter's Telescopes because they were displaying our Nexus DSC on one of their telescopes. A wander around led me to meeting the Astronomy Now people - being British, they understood the jetlag that I was experiencing and we had at least one topic to talk about!
The set-up day was fun - we met a whole lot of people from across the States. Star party organisers, telescope manufacturers, astronomy shops - anyone who was anyone in the astronomy community seemed to be there. Our eyes were definitely opened - the Australian astronomy scene is quite lonely.
Started from the bottom...
...and now we're here!
Today's the day! Day 1 of NEAF!
We arrived at the community college quite early (doors opened at 8.30am!) and finished putting the final touches on our booth. We also met our neighbours, who only arrived that morning to set up. The day started off pretty quiet - most people had coffee cups and I enthusiastically joined in on the trend considering my jetlag and late-night nerves.
I had no idea what to expect - but any expectations I had were blown out of the water. A lot of customers stopped by our booth, most of them surprised to know we were there (note to self: work on promoting our presence the next time around! Want to hear where we'll be next? Subscribe to our newsletter here) and we had a great time meeting the people who loved our products. A few stopped by and ended up chatting for an hour, which was lovely since we knew we had at least a few people on our side that day.
It actually started snowing during lunch so I left Serge alone and rushed out to see it. The snow was quite wet but it was still pretty awesome to see it. Lots of braggy photos were sent to my family back home in Sydney of course!
People who'd never heard of us were lured in by my strategically-placed signs declaring FREE CHOCOLATE and FREE FLASHLIGHTS. We spent a while demonstrating our products and getting to know many of the people who stopped by. I've learnt that these events are full of people who are enthusiastic to talk about their love of astronomy - and we're definitely part of that demographic.
The end of the day left me with sore feet and a sore throat from talking so much - but zero regrets. The second we got home, I fell into bed (it was maybe 7pm). I'm not quite sure how Serge didn't collapse, but he went to bed at the reasonable hour of 11pm whilst I woke up for a midnight snack before going back to bed again.
We tried our best to lure people into our booth! Did you grab a 10% off coupon or a free M&M pack?
Sunday is the chill day of the weekend. The show opens later (at 10.30am) and the people who attend on Sunday seem much more relaxed. We were visited by people from yesterday (thanks Reuben for photographing me on both days - you can tell how tired I am on Day 2 by comparing both photos!) and generally had a much easier day than Saturday.
Truthfully, most of Sunday remains a blur to me because I was so tired! I was running on auto-pilot, and I'm surprised that fully coherent sentences were coming out of my mouth. Or were people too polite to point out any mistakes?
The end of the day means packing up. Sadly, it was a lot less fun than the set-up was. Feet were dragging, chairs were sat on far too often - by we got the job done eventually. When we left, our US dealers Telescopes.net were only halfway through packing their enormous booth.
Overall, the weekend was a massive success and definitely an event worth going to.